Almost every company and organization values innovation, but few of them know where innovation truly comes from. Innovation doesn’t require a genius of mythic proportions, but it does require a catalyst. Innovation catalysts are sometimes people who take a role to inspire or harness innovation opportunities, while others are represented as concepts and motivations behind innovative ideas. Many catalysts for innovation are obvious, while others might seem more unconventional. Here are some of those unconventional innovation catalysts and the ways in which they drive and motivate new ideas.
The Incubation and Procrastination Catalysts
Many people try to force innovative ideas, or they turn to brainstorm sessions to generate ideas, but these may not be the best ways to generate true innovation. One of the best ways is to define the problem, and then let people go about their business. Maybe they do other work. Maybe they socialize with coworkers. Whatever life brings their way. But all the time they are doing other things, their brains are working on solving the problem. And one day, they do. They have the answer. It may look like it came out of the blue, but in reality, their brains never got over the need to find the answer. It’s a tried and true method used by creative people such as writers, artists and filmmakers. For example, when asked about procrastination, American director and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said, “You call it procrastinating. I call it thinking.”
The Frustration Catalyst
When people come up against a frustrating situation, they usually try and find ways to defuse the situation and rid themselves of the frustration. Though, with regard to innovation, the bigger the frustration, the more powerful the innovation will be. If you are looking for innovation in your products, allow your people to use the products themselves, using only the tools and documentation real users have. You will be amazed how quickly they will find a way to relieve their own frustrations—and your customer benefits from the process.
The Curiosity Catalyst
“What would happen if…” can be seen as one of the most powerful questions an innovator can ask. Faced with a problem, “what if…” is a legitimate question that can lead to new ideas and new uses and applications for older products. Set your team free so they can satisfy their curiosity, and you will be rewarded with innovation.
The Love Catalyst
This catalyst can be defined as love for humanity, love for an individual, or love for a product or solution. Depending on what it is someone loves, the chances they want to become involved in some type of way increase. For example, having love for someone who lost their life to an incurable disease can lead to a stronger fight for a cure. The desire to personally support the fight for a cure is fueled by the loss of the loved one, which boosts the chances of actually finding the cure.
Another example is having a special love for animals and the planet. This can lead to a desire to reduce or even remove animal products from your diet, which contributes to the meat-less product market. Increased demand for plant-based “beyond meat”, which uses a fraction of the resources to produce than meat-based products, leads to more supply. People pursue what they love to make it better.
The Failure Catalyst
Nothing succeeds like failure. Fall a few times riding your bicycle and you quickly learn what does and doesn’t work. Narrowing down the field helps people hone in on what works. Embrace failure, but don’t wallow in it. Check that idea off on your list and move on. Eventually, the team will hit on an innovation that works for everyone.
The Play Catalyst
Children can be seen as the most creative innovators among us because, for the most part, they simply want to play. For many younger children, whatever they can get their hands on has potential to become a plaything. Your team can do the same with your product, or they can play while procrastinating. Have fun with your work and your products. The innovations that come might surprise you.
Thinking Outside of the Box Drives Innovation
When your goal is to foster innovation in your organization, be sure to cut it some slack too. Don’t try to force innovation. It can’t be done. Instead, think outside of the box, and think about unconventional catalysts. Give people the time and space to tinker with ideas and products. Let people talk, play, think and dream, and you will be rewarded with an organization that is innovative beyond your imagination.